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Gov’t loses multi-million Pula case against civil servants

More than 218 employees in the Ministry of Infrastructure Science and Technology may soon be smiling all the way to the bank to collect back pays running into millions of Pula.

This follows High Court’s Justice Bopitshepo Tshweneyagae’s judgement in favour of the employees who were challenging government’s failure to implement a savingram from the Department of Public Service Management (DPSM) to introduce multiple grading and tilting of some positions in the public service.

The employees approached the Court seeking an order declaring unlawful government’s failure to apply Directive No 10 of 2001 in their favour and to extend the benefits derived from the application of Directive No. 10 of 2001 to them.

They also wanted the court to direct the government to place them in the position they would have been had the Directive been properly applied in their favour as well as directing the government to pay the salary arrears that resulted from the wrongful implementation of the Directive.

According to court papers, at the government, the government never filed any papers in opposition to the employees’ lawsuit. On the 20th March 2017 the parties entered into a settlement agreement in terms whereof the government was given three months from the date of the Order to calculate the respective sums of money due to the employees.

The parties were to meet at the Attorney General’s Chambers to discuss and agree on the sum of money payable to the employees by the government. But on the 7th December 2017, almost nine months later, the government brought an application for rescission (reversal) of the Court Order in question.

In the same application the government sought leave to file their appearance to defend the lawsuit. The Applicants concede in their application that they had consented to the Order of the 20th March 2017.

In his founding affidavit filed in support of the application for rescission, Dikagiso Mokotedi, who identified himself as the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Infrastructure at the time gave the following reasons for the decision taken informing the consent order and the subsequent decision to rescind from the consent order.

He stated that the Ministry’s consent to the Order was premised and influenced by the earlier decision in the High Court judgment of BOPEU V Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs.

This involves a case in which in April 2017, the Court of Appeal delivered a judgment on the interpretation of Directive No.8 of 2008 in the case of Moeti Temano & Others V Attorney General & Others.

“Based on this Court of Appeal judgment, which I am verily advised by my attorneys constitutes binding law, I then instructed the halting of the exercise of calculating the arrears in terms of the Order of the 20th March 2017,” said Mokotedi when giving reasons as to why the government wanted the court order to be rescinded.

The employees then filed their opposing papers. In her answering affidavit filed on behalf of other employees, one Hilda Koorapetse contended that the government had not made out any case either under the common law or under the Rules of the High Court for rescission of the Order obtained by consent.

Koorapetse argued that the reasons that the reason the Applicant consented to the Order was because they believed that the employees were entitled to benefit from multiple grading and titling directives. Judge Tshweneyagae said the question to determine was whether the government was entitled to the rescission of the Consent Order obtained by the parties on the 20th  March 2017.

The judge said Order 30 Rule 11. (1) of the High Court Rules provides that;  “In all cases where judgment has been given by consent or in default under Order 30, such judgment may be set aside by the Judge and leave given to the defendant to defend or to the plaintiff to prosecute his action.”

From the record, the judge said, government was represented at all times when it dealt with the matter. She said in his founding affidavit, Mokotedi said it was his decision to halt the exercise of calculating the Respondents arrears in terms of the Order of the 20th March 2017

“He does not attribute his decision to any legal advice he could have received. In terms of the agreement between the parties, the Applicants (government) agreed to a three months’ time frame to have calculated the respective sums of money due to the Respondents,” said the judge.

According to the judge, the decision that apparently informed the government’s position was made by the Court of Appeal in April 2017 and the application for rescission ’was launched almost nine months later.”

She said in terms of the agreement between government and employees, the government or ministry agreed to a three months’ time frame to have calculated the respective sums of money due to employees. “That they never did so and have not asked for condonation is potentially contemptuous of this court,” she said.

Tshweneyagae said the application was not brought within a reasonable time. “Generally speaking, unless one has been able to satisfy the common law grounds and/or the High Court Rules for rescission of judgment, the court has no authority to alter its own Order,” she said.

She also found that in the present case, the Consent Order was never erroneously sought nor was it erroneously granted in the absence of any party, as dictated by the rules of the High Court. “In fact this is not the Applicants case at all. In consenting to the Order, Applicants (government) did so through their legal Counsel.

They have not alleged that Counsel had misrepresented their position,” said Tshweneyagae. She said the Consent Order entered between the parties amounted to a compromise. “It arose from the discussions between the parties. She said the agreement of compromise creates new rights and obligations.

She said the purpose of the agreement between the parties was to bring an end to the existing litigation. She said the court does not have a discretion to set aside a consent order where there are no grounds for setting aside the underlying agreement of compromise pursuant to which the consent order was made.

“If the Applicants (government) made a mistake in entering into the Consent Order, such mistake was due to their own fault. It was not induced by the Respondents (employees). Dismissing government’s application to have the order rescinded, she said “In the absence of a mutual mistake, the Consent Order cannot be set aside.”

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African countries call on WHO to increase funding

2nd February 2023

Minister of Health Dr Edwin Dikoloti says Africa member states call on World Health Organization (WHO) to ensure equitable resource allocation for 2024-2025. Dr Dikoloti was speaking this week at the WHO Executive Board Meeting in Geneva, Switzerland.

He said countries agreed that there is need to address the budget and funding imbalances by increasing the programme budget share of countries and regions to 75% for the next year.

“The proposed budget for 2024-2025 marks an important milestone as it is the first in Programme Budget in which country offices will be allocated more than half of the total budget for the biennium. We highly welcome this approach which will enable the organization to deliver on its mandate while fulfilling the expectations for transparency, efficiency and accountability.”

The Botswana Health Minister commended member states on the extension of the General Programme of Work (GPD 13) and the Secretariat work to monitor the progress towards the triple billion targets, and the health-related SDGs.

“We welcome the Director’s general proposed five priorities which have crystalized into the “five Ps” that are aligned with the GPW 13 extension. Impact can only be achieved through close coordination with, and support to national health authorities. As such, the strengthening of country offices is instrumental, with particular focus on strengthening national health systems and on promoting more equitable access to health services.”

According to Dr Dikoloti, the majority of countries with UHC index that is below the global median are in the WHO Africa region. “For that, we call on the WHO to enhance capacity at the regional and national levels in order to accelerate progress. Currently, the regional office needs both technical and financial support in order to effectively address and support country needs.”

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Botswana still weighing in on Maseko’s assassination

27th January 2023

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Lemogang Kwape says Botswana has not taken any position regarding the killing of a renowned human rights lawyer, Thulani Maseko, who was gunned down at his house in Mbabane, Eswatini.

In a brief interview with WeekendPost, Dr Kwape said Botswana has not yet taken any position regarding his death. He said the purported incident should be thoroughly probed before Botswana can form an opinion based on the findings of the inquiries.

“Botswana generally condemns any killing of human life by all means,” says Dr. Kwape. He wouldn’t want to be dragged on whether Botswana will support the suspension of Eswatini from SADC.

“We will be guided by SADC organ Troika if they can be an emergency meeting. I am not sure when the meeting will be called by Namibian president,“ he said.

However, the Namibian president Hage Geingob notes with deep concern reports coming out of Eswatini about the killing of Mr. Maseko. In a statement, he called upon the “Government of the Kingdom of Eswatini to ensure that the killing of Maseko is swiftly, transparently and comprehensively investigated, and that any or all persons suspected of committing this heinous crime are brought to justice.”

Maseko was chairperson of the Multi-Stakeholder Forum which was established as a coalition of non-State actors to advocate for a process of national political dialogue aimed at resolving the security and political challenges confronting the Kingdom.

“SADC expresses its deepest and heartfelt condolences to the family of Mr. Maseko, his friends, colleagues, and to the people of the Kingdom of Eswatini for the loss of Mr. Maseko. In this context, SADC further calls upon the people of the Kingdom of Eswatini to remain calm, exercise due care and consideration whilst the appropriate structures conduct the investigations and bring the matter to completion,” the statement says.

Geingob reiterated the need for peaceful resolution of the political and security challenges affecting the country.

Meanwhile political activists are calling on SADC to suspend Eswatini from the block including the African Union as well.

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Kopong Murder: Accused interferes with witnesses again!

27th January 2023

State prosecutor, Seeletso Ookeditse revealed before the Broadhurst Magistrate Jobbie Moilatshimo that the third accused involved in the murder of Barulaganye Aston, has interfered with the State witnesses again.

The second and third accused (Lefty Kosie and Outlwile Aston) were previously accused of interference when they were caught in possession of cellphones in prison. They were further accused of planning to kill the deceased’s brother, who is currently the guardian to the children of the deceased.

Ookeditse indicated that Outlwile had earlier went to challenge the magistrate’s decision of denying him bail at the High Court before Judge Michael Motlhabi.

“The third accused approached the High Court and made a bail application, which was dismissed on the same day,” Ookeditse said.

However, even after the High Court verdict on their bail application, the duo (Kosie and Aston) has once again applied for bail this week.

Ookeditse plead with the court to stop the accused from abusing the court process.

“Yesterday, Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) received papers of his bail application filed before the Broadhurst Magistrates Court. However, the papers do not speak to changed circumstances, therefore this back and forth about bail must be put to a stop,” said the State prosecutor.

While giving evidence before court, the Investigations Officer, Detective Inspector Quite Zhalamonto, said his investigations have proved that there is interference continuing regarding the accused trio.

He told the court that on the 12th of January 2023, he received a report from Thato Aston, who is the son of the accused and the deceased. The son had alleged to the Investigation Officer that he received a call from one Phillip Molwantwa.

According to Zhalamonto, Thato revealed that Molwatwa indicated that he was from prison on a visit to the Outlwile Aston and went on to ask where he was staying and where his siblings (Aston’s children) are staying.

“Thato revealed that Phillip went on to ask if he or his siblings saw their father murdering their mother, and he was referring to the crime scene. Thato told me that he, however, refused to answer the questions as he was afraid especially because he was asked about where him and his siblings stay,” said Zhalamonto.

Zhalamonto alluded to the court that he then went to Orange to confirm the communication between Thato and Molwantwa where he found the case.

“I have arrested Philip yesterday and when I interviewed him, he did not deny that he knows Aston and that he has indeed called Thato and asked questions as to where him and his siblings resides even though he failed to give reasons for asking such questions,” Zhalamonto told the court.

He further revealed that Molwantwa indicated that he had received a call from an unknown man who refused to reveal himself.

“Phillip told me that the unknown man said he was sent by the accused (Aston), and that Aston had instructed him to tell me to check if there was still some money in his bank accounts, and he also wanted to know where the kids were residing, the unknown man even asked him to meet at Main Mall” the Investigation Officer told the court.

He further informed the court that he is working tirelessly to identify the “unknown caller” and the route of the cell number.

Furthermore, the fourth accused, Kebaleboge Ntsebe, has revealed to the court through a letter that she was abused and tortured by the Botswana Police Services. She wrote in her letter that she suffered miscarriage as a result of being beaten by the police.

Ntsebe is on bail, while a bail ruling for Aston and Kosie will be delivered on the 6th of next month

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